I was very fortunate that my boss recommended I attend a program he had gone on 5 years before, and that work agreed to sponsor me. It was a month long residential program at one of the top business schools in Europe - INSEAD in Fontanebleau, France.
The course was the AMP - the Advanced Management Program. For me it was one of the best and most significant learning experiences of my professional life. I learned so much about me, about leadership, business issues and management, and I met so many fantastic people. We were a group of 69 people from 33 different countries. There was such great intellect and experience amongst my classmates that spending time with them was fun, but also there was so much to learn from them.
We worked in large groups for lectures, and in smaller groups for case studies and projects. The groups were composed to get maximum diversity, and each time we did group work, there was so much to discuss, share and learn. We covered topics like coaching and teams, change management, finance and the financial crisis, marketing and business, governance, leadership, organsiation theory, process theory, politics and social power, conflict resolution, strategy, intercultural leadership, geopolitics, personal health management....and so much more!
Being in Fontanebleau also meant a few other things: The forest around Fontanebleau, great fun, great food and drink, and a weekend in Paris.
The forest around Fontanebleau is famous for bouldering and climbing, but for us it was a great place to exercise. I hired a bike from the bike shop in town for the whole month, and most mornings spent 1 to 1 and a 1/2 hours exploring the forest. Often I would ride over to the town of Barbizon, with a few side tracks, this would take about an hour. I also rode to many of the other neighboring towns (about 10-15 kms away) and near the end of my stay, found a great round circuit that took about 90 minutes. It was great exercise and fantastically peaceful. I saw lots of deer, jackrabbits, and plenty of bird-life. One morning I even came across a local Gendarme (local police officer) having a 'liaison' with a young lady in his police car.
We also went for a group bike ride, and with some members of the group not having ridden a bike for 25 years. We spent 4 hours getting to Barbizon and back (but it did include a fantastic lunch at a local barbecue restaurant)
We visited many of the local restaurants and pubs and had many super nights out (and lots of late ones). We often travelled in groups (anything from 5 to 40!) to Barbizon, to a small restaurant by the Seine, and to many of the local eateries and pubs. I was glad I was exercising most days, to counterbalance all the fantastic food and drink!
One of the weekends I travelled to Ypres in Belgium (see separate posting) and with a group to Paris. We raced up by taxi, as one of the classmates had to go shopping! We then had a brilliant evening in a restaraunt in the Latin Quarter, with 8 of us having a delicious dinner, and visiting a few bars to the early hours of the morning. The next day we had breakfast at San Michael
(Francis, Oliver, Phil, Inga)
visited Notre Dame and St Chapelle, the Lourve, then a big walk down to Lumemburg gardens where we rested up with a few glasses of champagne. We then caught the train back to Fontanebleau... where we caught up with colleagues and went out to dinner again!
(Francis, Hendes, Inga)
The value of the course, both personally and professionally, will last the rest of my life. I consider it as my 'half time break' - like in a football match. It was a chance to leave the field, look back and reflect, consider what I can do different, and recharge my batteries for the second half. I learned a lot, and feel I have integrated so much that it will really enhance how I lead, manage and move ahead.
I missed Nicole and the boys, as they went to Australia whilst I was there (see separate posts). However, I was glad to know that they were safe with family so I didn't have to worry about them (just missed them!).